A Critical Respond to: “A Unique Miqveh in Upper Galilee” (by Eldad Keynan) – A Guest Post by Mordechai Aviam

A Critical Response to: “A Unique Miqveh in Upper Galilee” by Eldad Keynan

Mordechai Aviam
Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology
Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee

It is very sad to see a baseless article, published in a distinguished Web-site (www.bibleinterp.com) which purports to publish new archaeological discoveries concerning the Biblical world. Keynan’s article is based on a very shallow research and presents poor academic standards, with very little archaeological knowledge and full of mistakes of different types!

One can just walk in the field, take some photos of archaeological finds and then “write” an article. But this is not Archaeology! The field of archaeology, like any other field of research, demands much more.

Writing an article in 2015 concerning Miqva’ot without referring to Reich’s book on this type of installation (Reich R. 2013. Miqwa’ot (Jewish Ritual Baths), in the Second Temple Mishnaic and Talmudic Period. Jerusalem) is complete ignorance, and then stating that “Dozens has have been found in Israel”, making it even worse. Reich gives us the numbers: 459 from the Second Temple Period and 74 from later periods; all together 533 miqva’ot which are much more than ‘dozens’.

Kenyan’s description of the “miqveh” at Horvat Amudim as having “…a small pit in the floor corner…” makes every archaeologist immediately understand that this installation is actually a collecting vat of a wine press. This small depression was cut to collect the last drops of wine from the vat’s floor and it is totally absent in any real miqveh! If Keynan would open Reich’s book and he could see hundreds of plans and sections of miqva’ot all of which lack this feature.

The same happened when Keynan recently mis-identified a “miqveh” at Horvat Makhoz, in the Upper Galilee. He saw the collecting vat, identified it as a miqveh but failed to recognize the threshing floor right above it, and without any support from any archaeological evidence he dated it to the 1st century BC! He based this observation on what he called similarities to the miqveh at Keren Naftali. The Keren Naftali installation is indeed a real miqveh, characterized by one large step and one narrow step, typical of early miqva’ot, and of course no small cup in its floor. The pottery collected in the survey I conducted at Horvat Makhoz, was comprised of 70% Byzantine sherds, 29% Mamluk sherds and only 1% from the Roman period.

But the worst comes when Keynan states that he discovered a miqveh with a cross in Western Upper Galilee, without mentioning the site name or its location. Based on this “discovery” Keynan has compiled an imaginative theory about the site which was initially a Jewish village and following Christianization of its inhabitants, a cross was engraved on the wall of its miqveh….

This site was surveyed by me many years ago and was named by the neighboring Christian villagers from Fassutah, Bir Abu Faur. I identified there a small monastery (e.g., Aviam M. 1999. Christian Galilee in the Byzantine Period. In E. Meyrs (ed.) Galilee through the Centuries. Winona Lake. Pp. 281–300, map on page 282, Bir Faur is #26. A photo of this collecting vat with the cross was also published in Aviam M. 2004. Jews Pagan and Christians in the Galilee. Rochester. P. 172, photo 16.3). At the bottom of the collecting vat there is a small depression in the corner. Above it there clearly is a threshing floor with some large mosaic tesserae which once covered it. There were handsome pottery sherds dated to the Hellenistic period and all the rest are from the Byzantine period. Keynan concludes his article with these words: “Still, the entire area is unstudied and thus unexcavated…”, which is far from the truth.

It is not the first time that Keynan “Discovers fantastic and unique” discoveries, in areas which he believes were “never studied before.” Unfortunately, his research abilities are so poorly utilized that he is neither aware of – or ignores – published studies, nor consults archaeologists who have been working in the field for many years.

I believe that the editors of the Bibleinterp Web-site have access to sufficient resources for checking the facts before publishing articles like Keynan’s, as they have many thousands of readers and in this case, given non-scientific and wrong information.